Friday, November 9, 2012

#LiquorLeaks - still pouring

In this Nov. 2 Business in Vancouver story, I revealed how the British Columbia government conducted secret consultations with select industry players about the plan to privatize the Liquor Distribution Branch's warehousing and distribution.

The internal documents on which the story is based are below. They are from briefings for Liquor Minister Rich Coleman and then-Finance Minister Kevin Falcon. They show that the government was concerned with the well-being of ContainerWorld, the largest of the pre-distribution warehouses on contract with LDB. ContainerWorld is owned by B.C. Liberal supporter Dennis Chrismas, who met with Coleman on March 2.

Chrismas was originally opposed to any change in the liquor distribution system. When bidding opened, ContainerWorld was involved because the privatization would have phased out the pre-distribution program. In this May 29 Business in Vancouver story, I detailed the interesting relationship between ContainerWorld and Exel, the company that lobbied the B.C. Liberals heavily for seven years to privatize. From an observer's point of view, two of the four shortlisted companies may have been too close for comfort.

On page 89 of the documents below, you'll even find that an unidentified person scrawled "Dennis Chrismas." Either Mr. Chrismas's name came up during the ministerial briefing or it was top-of-mind for one of the participants.

The privatization was scrapped Sept. 27 when the government and B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union agreed on a new contract. The premature cancellation was announced the next day. And we still don't know the real reason why.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Exclusive: The Last Days of Ken Boessenkool

On Nov. 2 in Business in Vancouver, I revealed details of Ken Boessenkool's last days as chief of staff to B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

In a nutshell: The former aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Hill + Knowlton lobbyist returned to his family in Calgary after resigning Sept. 23. He was involved in what Clark would only call an "incident of concern." What really went on Sept. 7 at the Bard and Banker Pub in Victoria remains a mystery, but Global TV reported it involved a female subordinate. Here is Jas Johal's Sept. 24 report.

Despite the Premier declaring that the government's human resources procedures were followed "to the letter," the government claimed on Oct. 29 that the Public Service Agency's investigation was all verbal. The government claims it has not a single record about the investigation or about the Sept. 7 golf tournament that preceded the pub party.

Well, it did document Boessenkool's agenda and here it is below.

Before you read it, you need to know a few things.

The redactions were done by government for fear of harm to law enforcement (sec. 15 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act), fear of harm to the financial or economic interests of a public body (sec. 17), and fear of harm to personal privacy (sec. 22). We don't know how legitimate the censorship is. Sometimes government errs on the side of secrecy when it should be doing the opposite.

You will see that the day after the Sept. 7 "incident of concern," Boessenkool flew off to Hong Kong for the start of Clark's trip that also included stops in Shenzhen, Tianjin and Beijing. (The times for the Hong Kong/China trip in Boessenkool's agenda were not adjusted.)

Boessenkool had an unusual amount of private time while on a trip paid for by the taxpayer. Notice the sec. 22 (personal privacy) redactions of 100 minutes under Sept. 9, 95 minutes under Sept. 10 and four hours and 45 minutes under Sept. 11. What was Boessenkool doing, why is it hidden from you and me and does the Premier even know where he was and what he was doing?

Nowhere on the agenda does it indicate Boessenkool met or spoke with Lynda Tarras, the head of the Public Service Agency. Clark said she was the one investigating Boessenkool. It does, however, show an hour-long meeting on Sept. 18 with John Dyble, Clark's Deputy Minister in charge of the public service. That happened after a brief five-minute chat with Clark. (Neither Tarras nor Dyble responded to my interview requests.)

Clark and Boessenkool spoke again, but for 45 minutes on Sept. 20. That appeared to be his last, full day on the job. The FOI disclosure ends with a whimper with only two minor appointments on Sept. 21. Nothing was disclosed for either Sept. 22 or 23, the day he apparently wrote the resignation letter.

What really went on Sept. 7 and was there really an investigation into Boessenkool's behaviour? Or did the Premier only jump into action when Global's Johal started asking questions?

Will the Premier, a champion of the anti-bullying movement, ever tell us what happened about the alleged case of workplace harassment that cost her chief of staff his job?

The Last Days of Ken Boessenkool

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